–Trotman as chairman; Hughes as vice chair; Patterson returns as general secretary
— Nagamootoo throws support behind new executive
THE Alliance For Change (AFC), by a large majority, voted for Khemraj Ramjattan to be the party’s prime ministerial candidate for the upcoming General and Regional Elections, thereby ousting Moses Nagamootoo from returning as a PM candidate.
Ramjattan’s endorsement as the prime ministerial candidate took place hours after he was elected leader of the AFC during its National Conference and Elections held on Saturday at St. Paul’s Retreat Centre, on the East Coast of Demerara.
During the conference, which had 275 delegates and 40 observers in attendance, four motions were put to the floor for the AFC to appoint Ramjattan as the prime ministerial candidate for the next General Elections – the response was overwhelming. The Guyana Chronicle understands that over 200 delegates, by show of hands, voted in favour of the consolidated motion.
Ramjattan, in his address, told the delegates that while the motions recommended that he be the prime ministerial candidate, it was not an indication that the party had no confidence in Prime Minister Nagamootoo.
“The motion does not in any way, do any injustice to Moses Nagamootoo,” Ramjattan said, while emphasising that it was not a signal of no-confidence in the current prime minister.
“Moses has been my mentor and that is why before he left, he hugged me and said ‘Khemraj, whatever it is, we are still brothers,’” the AFC prime ministerial candidate told the delegates.
Ramjattan also told the delegates that the AFC will contest the upcoming elections alongside its coalition partner – the Partnership for National Unity (APNU) – as was done in May 2015, which resulted in them being elected to government.
GOING BACK AS A COALITION
“We are going back as a coalition,” he told them while underscoring the importance of facing the electorate as a united force that has their interest at heart. “Make a personal commitment to see us through successfully in the next elections,” he further urged the delegates. He also committed to creating employment opportunities for the people of Guyana.
On the sideline of the conference, shortly after he was recommended to be the prime ministerial candidate, Ramjattan told reporters it would appear that the delegates view him as “fit and proper” for the position. He committed to “doing a good job,” and addressing issues of job creation and constitutional reform raised by the AFC supporters.
Before the consolidated motion was debated and put to a vote, Prime Minister Nagamootoo exited the conference on the basis that he did not want to influence the process.
He told reporters: “I am a democrat; I do not want to influence any of the decisions, one way or the other.”
The prime minister, who is regarded as an elder statesman in the AFC, said the motion was not a contest. “I have not… thrown my hat in the proverbial ring. So it is not like you have to vote for either Nagamootoo or Ramjattan or anybody else. It’s a motion, and for me it’s a motion of intention,” he explained.
He recalled that in 2015, it was the leadership of the AFC that approached him to be the prime ministerial candidate, and he accepted. Nagamotoo said this time around, there was no nomination for prime ministerial candidates or parliamentarians.
Nonetheless, Nagamootoo noted that since 2017, he indicated that he would no longer be contesting for any of the leadership positions in the alliance.
“I have had a lot of that in 50 years on another side of the fence. I wanted young people to be able to participate in this process and to be qualified to be elected, and to be elected, so I withdrew from all leadership positions in the party,” he explained.
It is his view that the timing of the motion was wrong but made it clear that it was not for him to decide, noting that it was an inter-party political process.
“On Tuesday, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) will deliver its decision, I don’t know if they will be able to deliver all of the decisions, (but) this is happening on the eve, virtually, of those decisions, so for me, you have to be careful of the optics that you don’t send a message that you are already in elections mode and you are accepting the fact that the motion might have been carried, and you are already selecting candidates for an election,” Prime Minister Nagamooto explained.
But Catherine Hughes, who was re-elected vice-chairman of the AFC, said it was an important decision to make.
“This is an issue we have to deal with. We do not have the luxury of another national conference. Our national conference was due now and we decided that we were having it. We had it and we are prepared to enter into an election whenever it is necessary. We have said as a government, we are going to abide by the ruling of the CCJ,” Hughes told reporters. She said the conference was extremely expensive to host, and it was important for the party to capitalise on the opportunity to decide on its prime ministerial candidate.
“It makes absolutely no sense for the AFC to be unprepared. This is part of our preparation for going into a national election,” the vice-chairman said.
With Ramjattan selected as the AFC’s prime ministerial candidate, it is more than likely that he will run alongside President David Granger, the APNU’s Presidential Candidate, in the upcoming General Elections. The Cummingsburg Accord, from which the APNU+AFC coalition was birthed, provides for AFC to provide the prime ministerial candidate, and the APNU, the Presidential Candidate in a national election.